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Wireless Networking Hardware

Lanlink Linking The Coasts 340

Dan Bricker writes "A guy in Parma Heights, Ohio has a website to promote an idea of linking the east coast to the west coast using standard off-the-shelf 802.11 equipment. He is aiming for a July 4th, 2006 first coast-to-coast ping. This project appears to be totally volunteer based, With no other stated reason than fun with pringle cans and bad weather, and do it just to do it. Can this be done? What real world applications does this have?"
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Lanlink Linking The Coasts

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  • by immanis ( 557955 ) <> on Tuesday May 13, 2003 @11:42PM (#5951708) Homepage Journal

    How about, for starters, the number of open hotspots this could generate?

  • by dorzak ( 142233 ) <dorzak&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 13, 2003 @11:43PM (#5951711) Journal
    I was a Junior High student when they proposed hands across America, and it was stated it was impossible. As I recall it came off mostly intact. I seem to recall some guffaw about a gap or two, but in general it happened.

    Question: Can we, the geeks, mobilize as well as that? My own sedentary nature tends to lead me to be pessimistic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13, 2003 @11:50PM (#5951755)
    just like 90% of the projects that get started on, a plan will be drawn up but will not be executed. If it happens, I would be shocked.
  • Yes, YES, YES!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2003 @11:57PM (#5951796) Journal

    As long as he's not obsessed with 802.11x, this is great! For the longer stretches, he should use IR lasers or something that can really throw the bits around.

    If he can succeed, the long-term implications are fantastic. Internet will become too cheap to meter. Inexpensive laser and other types of LOS relays will join windmills and silos as familiar rural landmarks. AOL and Time-Warner can eat all of America's shorts. There is nothing to say the same economic forces that may eventually make proprietary software obsolete can't make proprietary networks obsolete too.

    The hard part about free wireless has always been the "upstream". If this guy can get a viable continent spanning link, it may go down in history just like the link between... what was it... Duke and UNC? You know, the one that started the internet in the first place. Let's see... we have internet, internet 2, and now internet 3. I can't wait. I think Internet 3 could eventually replace internet 1 and make internet 2 jelous.

    Give it the same amount of time we gave that first uucp link.

    p.s., I'm surprised my subject line makes it through the filters.

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:01AM (#5951822)
    The real world application is, perhaps, psychological: getting people to realize that with a bit of effort each, we can all be networked to each other at high speed WITHOUT paying some company OR government for the privelege of just moving data around using equipment we own and airwaves that belong to everyone.

  • Re:very difficult... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by niko9 ( 315647 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:02AM (#5951828)
    This sort of coast to coast communication is done everyday with ham radio. It's called packet radio. Hell, it's even done with voice repeaters. I usually chat with the fols in Florida using nothing but my 600mw Radio Shack Dual Band HT. Yup, thats right, 600mw radio and three double AA batteries.

  • by RealityMogul ( 663835 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:05AM (#5951852)
    There's 3,000 miles between coasts. Lets assume that somebody jumps on board for every 1 mile stretch. How far would 3,000 people scattered across different service areas for cable and phone service get in petitioning for broadband?
  • Tried before (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:12AM (#5951893)
    One of the guys with l0pht set up this site [] in an attempt to accomplish something similar: A LAN-based backbone independent of government and corporate oversight. I waited two years for someone in my area to indicate some sort of interest, but nobody seemed interested. The last time this site was updated was in 2002, so I guess the original author's interest has waned as well.

    The point of this post, though, is to provide a link that does a good job of answering why such an independent backbone would be A Good Thing.
  • Re:Um, totally nuts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:17AM (#5951922)
    Since the FCC fines owners of such devices $1,000 per day per device I don't see thise happening.
  • by immanis ( 557955 ) <> on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:25AM (#5951968) Homepage Journal

    Reality: Assume the project works. They get it done, have a party, and so on. Then what? It's either put to use, or mothballed. And all those people with all that equipment will want to do something with it. Making a hotspot is a natural move.

    And even if it is put to use, for what? A private community? People will be all over this network like white on rice, rules or no. It may not be connected to the internet by a member, but someone will hook it all together.

    Or, say the project fails. You've still got the same situation, but if anything, with more drive. You've got lots of people, with lots of equipment, who are stinging from failure. Setting up a hotspot would be a natural move toward some sense of "Well, at least I accomplished something.

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:25AM (#5951970)
    ...than if everyone involved with this project tested for their Amateur Radio Tech license, and simply used existing off-the-shelf components with power output several magnitudes greater than consumer-grade 802.11 equipment to do the same thing?

    Hams have been communicating digitally in the GHz spectrum for a long time now. Why use inferior consumer-grade equipment to get the job done? Plus, as a licensed ham, you have the permission of the government to modify your equipment as necessary (as long as it falls within the power/interference limits set by the FCC).

    Of course, transmitting porn and music would be against the regs, but if it's principle you're after, using amateur radio is just the ticket.
  • Well, I could conceivably go as high as 1500 W (Amateur Extra). However, since they _don't_ want to kill everyone within 50 miles, 50-75 W with a good antenna is probably enough.

    The lower channels of 802.11b fall into ham radio bands. We're allowed to go from 2.39-2.45 GHz and I can't find any power restrictions for licensed operators.

  • by michaelggreer ( 612022 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:39AM (#5952033)
    I don't see how the Internet doesn't already provide this "interconnectedness" you say is so progressive.
  • by cjsnell ( 5825 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:48AM (#5952075) Journal
    Last year, there was an article [] here about some old AT&T bunkers and towers for sale []. While it would be impracticle (if not impossible) to use all of these towers for 802.11 sites, their routes across the country [] would come in very handy. These maps would give you a good idea of what kind of line-of-sight you could get in various regions.

    While I'm at it, here is an excellent site with more AT&T long-line info links:

    Towers in Utah [] w/ good links

  • by KrispyKringle ( 672903 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:54AM (#5952096)
    I think the real world applications of this sort of technology are pretty extensive. Off-the-shelf long-range WiFi (with the addition of a Pringles can or whatever) is applicable for solving the so-called "Last Mile Problem" as well as for cheaply extending the infrastructure in third world countries.

    I was recently involved in a fairly casual discussion of how to create a WAN link between computer labs at two different campuses of a university in Ghana. The main campus, in the capital city of Akra (sp?) has a limited satellite connection to the Internet costing something around a few thousand a month, supposedly. None of the other three campuses have or can afford a similar connection. This isn't a big enough gateway to share WWW access, but a WAN could allow Intranet and Internet-based email, as well as Intranet sites, file sharing, and perhaps even VoIP to augment the poor phone systems.

    So the big problem was how to set up this connection. The telco system apparently isn't too good; only around 400 new lines are added per year, so getting ahold of a large number of leased lines would be virtual impossible. Obviously, setting up an independent wired backbone is financially out of the question. So we started toying with the idea of a WiFi link, which seemed like the only possibility.

    The only problem is that if we are trying to set up a 200km link (between the main campus and one in the north; I don't recall the name of the city) we would need repeaters in some remote areas without consistent power, not to mention having to plot good line-of-site and build fairly secure base stations. What we realised was that we could attempt to piggyback the existing private cell-phone infrastructure. There is a cell system spanning the north and south, which means a stable backbone, on which we can either rent data bandwidth (probably expensive) or, better yet, on who's repeater stations (probably microwave antennas) we could rent physical space.

    Our informal conclusion was that the University should consider renting space on repeater stations for their own WiFi hubs and create a WAN using long-distance line-of-site connections with off-the-shelf, inexpensive WiFi components. Projects like this pave the way to practical, inexpensive applications of WiFi technology.

  • EME? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by macguys ( 472025 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @12:59AM (#5952108) Homepage
    One way for this to happen would be to bounce the signal off the moon. Earth-Moon-Earth is a proven technology that Amateur Radio folks (de KD4BTC) have been doing for years. Check out this article [].
  • I meant other than the max power for the license. Since my license says that I can transmit at 1500 W on almost band I please with a few exceptions, I assume that I can also do that in the microwave range. They don't expressly limit it, therefore, it is the maximum for the license.

    Of course, it isn't exactly smart since 1500 W at 2.4 GHz would most likely boil all water within quite an impressive distance in a few seconds.
  • FIDO Nets reborn (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Desperado ( 23084 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @01:35AM (#5952235)
    Remember FIDO Net? I'm sure some do. Data passed from node to node in store and forward mode across the country using local calls modem to modem. It was way cool in its day. Doing it again with WiFi should be a real challenge but not impossible.
  • by adamruck ( 638131 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @01:52AM (#5952300)
    Perhaps more importantly, this network would be verymuch unreliable... $20 in equipment to make a device that interrupts all 802.11b/g signals in the area. That's not going to be a good thing if EBAY wants to put a site up...

    I agree.. how could a network with no actual backbone last any sort of time, especially when its first starting off when fewer people have the equipment. A network purely based on 802.11 would need an incredable amount of redudancy.

    Also while this plan might sound good going from city to close city (10-20 miles away), what happens when you run into a dessert or a mountain? There are physical problems with a network like that.

    With current technology and current level of technology craze, I would say this project would be impossible.
  • by plagiarist ( 87743 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @02:32AM (#5952419)
    remember fidonet? []

    that was one example of a network whose structure could handle host disconnects. also freenet, which has redundancy built into its design. and gnutella, as you point out.

    all of these essentially use P2P as their structure, but fidonet and freenet remind us that P2P-the-structure has a far wider range of uses than just downloading mp3's. right now the internet dominates "cause it's there" but even its structure was historically envisioned (by some, anyway) as much more decentralized than it is now. as it moves toward centralization it becomes increasingly unsatisfactory for many purposes, and momentum grows to build and use alternative, decentralized structures.

  • Difficult... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retro128 ( 318602 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @03:12AM (#5952525)
    Well, if any of you have ever driven across the US, it would be apparent that there is a whole lot of nothing out there. However, note that it is possible to bridge long distances with 802.11.
    Take note of the HPWren map. [] They've got a wireless node 45 miles away from their base tower, and they use off-the-shelf gear operating in the ISM band. In some places they have repeater radios powered by solar panels by day and batteries by night. Surely something like that could be utilized in such a project mentioned in the article, but who would put up the money to set up some of these stations and insure they don't get vandalized or destroyed by bad weather?
    Such repeater stations would be required, especially if you want to get that signal to the California coast. We have some, erm, minor obstacles. []

    Anything is possible with enough thought and money. I have no doubt that under such a project, major networks could be constructed in metropolitan areas. Yes, it can be done with Pringles cans. I have constructed one myself and the gain I get out of it rivals most commercial antennas, except for a parabolic.

    The biggest hurdle that this project has to overcome is awareness, getting people out of "that's cool" mode and getting them to do something, bridging the huge distances, and getting the signal over mountains. Other than that, it's a piece of cake :)
  • by dav ( 5309 ) * on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @03:19AM (#5952552) Homepage
    and next up, alaska to tierra del fuego
  • Re:Two Words: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by per unit analyzer ( 240753 ) <EngineerZ AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 14, 2003 @11:24AM (#5954982)
    Railroads are one of the few types of entities that aren't telcos that are likely to have continuous strips of land between metro/suburban areas.

    Sell it to them as a cutting edge experiment: publicity, and maybe even a fledgling version of being able to offer passengers internet access, or internet-tracked cargo shipping, or something else.

    Many railroads have been there, done that, and gotten many t-shirts in this area. Railroads (along with other ciritical infrastructure companies like utilities and pipelines) have been operating private microwave radio systems for 40 years. Nowadays many of the lightly-loaded routes operate on (non-802.11) unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz equipment. One of the major functions of these networks is to support Automatic Equipment Identification (AEI) which allows railroads to track any piece of rolling stock anywhere in North America.


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